Foodie Tuesday: Up to My Elbows in It

Photo: Fat, Glorious FatYou already know that of my many edible obsessions, fats are among the most prized. Butter in virtually any form is the glistening Sun of my oblations when it brings its sleek graces to the sweet and the savory alike. Meat fats, vegetable-derived fats: yea verily, I can’t imagine how I would find culinary happiness if it weren’t for the kind kisses of olive oil, duck fat, tallow, avocado oil, sweet and mild nut oils, leaf lard, coconut oil, and all of their slick cohort bringing the foods I eat to their most well-rounded state. Barbecue of the highest order doesn’t even exist, in my book, unless I have to scrub like a surgeon after eating it to clean up the goodness that ran up my arms before getting to my mouth. The mere sheen of the translucent butcher paper sticking to the smokehouse table is enough to start a Pavlovian response in me.Photo: Brisket, Burnt Ends, Ribs, & Sausage

The thing is, I’ve learned over a long and avid career as an eater, that it’s not fats, per se, that make me rounder, but which fats I eat, and when, and how much. I am well aware that food is faddish, and you know I’ve posted about such things on many a Tuesday of yore, but I pay better attention to my own body’s definition of what works and what doesn’t than I used to do, and by now I’ve seen that while it’s not very helpful to me in terms of my physical fitness or comfort to indulge as much as I wish in eating like a ruminant or like a three-year-old with a credit card, I can be more generous with my desire for fat. You can cringe if you like; I know it’s not for every body, and Fat has been made a dirty word for generations not only because it’s been considered unhealthy, unseemly or both but because it’s been considered dangerous and therefore ugly on people.

But I’ve known folk who lived long, happy, productive lives without ever being particularly svelte, let alone stick-figure thin like fashion models are wont (and expected) to be. I’ve known of dietary health or fitness fanatics who died young of health-related causes. They aren’t the supposed norm, no, but then most of us aren’t, one way or another. When I get my medical checkups I have consistently high cholesterol levels, enough so the doctor sends me off for sophisticated coronary calcium tests, and I come home with a chart that could just as well have a grade school star sticker or happy face on it to go with its perfect Zero score; it defies not only the odds but logic, yet there it is. My blood pressure remains on the low-moderate side, my heart keeps ticking, and the amount of cholesterol in my pipes seems to be irrelevant to my general health thus far in life.

On the other end of the scale, for me, is the unfortunate truth that two things I adore eating, wheat (breads, cookies, pasta, and the like) and uncultured dairy products (ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, and a few other items), almost instantaneously expand my gut and make me feel logy and uncomfortable. I would love to be that grass-eating goat who can munch on wheat-based goodies endlessly without consequence, or that toddler with a bank account running amok in a forty-flavors ice cream parlor, but I’m learning to face the reality that I’m not one of those for whom that’s a good or even fun choice.

One way I am learning to deal with the profound sense of loss that not indulging those wicked-tasty urges very often, if at all, is of course by simply substituting temptations that I like as well and that like me back a little more kindly. Fats. As my spouse just read to me from a newsmagazine, pretty much anything can be improved with a drizzle of browned butter, and who am I to argue with printed infotainment? I suspect there are few foods that, if listed on two menus with one touting Beurre Noisette as an ingredient and the other not, wouldn’t sucker me right in for the sale with the former version. And don’t even get me started on low-fat and nonfat foods being offered as supposed temptations to my fat-loving palate. If they were low-fat or nonfat in the beginning, say, leafy greens, I’m quite happy to eat them, but I promise you I’ll dive in so much the faster if you cook ’em and offer me a good dollop of butter melted on top.

Inspired by Emeril Lagasse‘s skillet cornbread recipe, I merely added a little seasoning, slightly more fat and Voila! It got even better. See how easily that works?!Photo: Slightly Fatter Cornbread

Slightly Fatter Skillet Cornbread

Preheat oven to 450°F/232°C (or whatever approximates those temps in your oven), with your well-seasoned cast iron skillet in it.

Combine dry ingredients with a fork or whisk in a large measuring pitcher (I like my 64 oz pitcher, because it makes ingredient transfers so easy) or bowl: 3 cups cornmeal, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. In a separate measuring pitcher or bowl, beat together the wet ingredients: 3 cups buttermilk (or my on-hand substitute of 1 cup heavy cream, 2-3 T lemon juice, and enough whole milk to bring the total to 3 cups—which combination I think I might like even better than the buttermilk), 3 large eggs, and 2/3 cup of melted [salted] butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until mixed.

When the oven’s temp is right, pull out the skillet, melt 2 T bacon fat in it and tip the pan to coat it thoroughly. Pour in the cornbread mixture, pop the skillet back in the oven, and bake until a rich, russety golden brown, somewhere around 30 minutes. In a household of two, I find it’s useful to cut the cornbread into 12 wedges, and as soon as it’s cool enough to handle, package two at a time in bags or parchment wraps and seal them in a big zipper bag in the freezer, where the residual steam will help keep them moist and manageable for thawing for later meals.

But I do keep a couple of pieces handy for the day’s lunch or dinner straight from the oven, preferably slathered with yet more [browned] butter and topped, perhaps, with some sweet honey, molasses, jam, fresh fruit…or more butter. Don’t tell anybody. They’ll know when they see the shine on my lips, anyhow.

Foodie Tuesday: Thrilled Cheese

Photo: SwirlyMy name is Kathryn and I’m a dairy fiend.

I sincerely hope there’s no umpteen-step program out there to cure me of my addiction, because I would be ever so sad to part company with butter (pastured butter, sage butter, beurre noisette…), cream (yogurt, ice cream, whipped cream, a drizzle of heavy cream, sour cream…) and all of their cow- and goat- and sheep-produced milky ilk. Among the most dire of those losses would certainly be cheeses. It’s even a remote possibility that in my childhood I mistook various people’s talk about the power and centrality of a certain deity in their lives as completely understandable allegiance to the prepared and aged dairy product, hearing them intone instead, ‘come into my heart, Lord Cheeses.’

All of that is merely to tell you in what high esteem I hold dairy products. I know I am not alone in this. The worldwide fame of the French cheese board, an Italian feast topped with fine curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a glorious firework of Saganaki, a rich fondue or heart- and hearth-warming rustic iron cooker oozing with Raclette (somehow fitting is that the compute offers as a ‘correction’ of this name the word Paraclete, for it is both a helper and rather holy in its way)–these are all embedded in the souls and arteries of generations around the globe, along with many others. The land of my birth has been, if anything, impregnated with this rich and robust love by every wave of immigrants who have ever set foot on its shores, bringing along all of the aforementioned and so much more, and gradually adding a multitude of delightfully cheesy (in every sense of the word) American twists to them. Along the way, besides gleefully adopting and adapting all of the aforementioned, we dairy devotees stateside have high on the short list of our national favorite foods such delicacies as cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza and macaroni and cheese. [For the latter, by the way, I’d be hard pressed to find a recipe that rivals Amy Sedaris’s death-defying macaroni and cheese for my love; infinite variations of it have become my personal staple when I choose to make the dish.]

I confess that lowest on my personal list of cheese ratings, possibly even below the most notoriously stinky and bizarre of cheeses (yes, Gammelost, I’m looking at YOU) is the one ‘cheese’ named for our country, American Cheese, which I personally think of as purportedly edible vinyl and often has little or no actual dairy contents, though for good or ill there are otherwise reputable American cheese makers currently promoting a new, truly dairy version of this stuff. Yes, I get the whole melt-ability thing, whether for Tex-Mexqueso‘ (an ironic name, to my way of thinking) or for creamy sauces and the like—but I also know there are plenty of ways to achieve that smoothness with what I think of as real cheeses. But I digress. Yet again.Photo: Aging Cheeses

When hungry for grilled or toasted cheese sandwiches I am not averse to tinkering with the most sacred simple versions, as long as the cheese still gets to star in the meal, because after all, the entrée is named after it. Since there are whole restaurant menus devoted to the single item of this sandwich, I needn’t tell you what a wide and spectacular range of goodies goes ever-so-nicely with cheese and bread. Now that I think of it, the stereotype of the French eating nothing but bread, cheese and wine could be excellent reason to pour up a nice glass of red when one is consuming a grilled cheese sammy, but that’s merely a starting point for the whole world of possibilities of course. A cheese and chutney sandwich comprising a sharp white cheddar, Major Grey’s chutney and a lovely dense bread (how about a nice sweet pumpernickel? she asked) is a thing of beauty. A perfect deli Reuben is a great variant of the cheese sandwich. Tuna melt? Why, yes, please! And on we go.

Photo: Dungeness Crab Grilled Cheese

A purist’s dream, amped up: the Bee Hive Restaurant in Montesano, Washington makes a buttery grilled Tillamook (Oregon) cheddar cheese sandwich on sourdough bread, adorned with a heap of sweet Dungeness crab meat. If you can’t find happiness in a bite of that, you’re really not trying.

Sometimes it can be both simple and surprising. I’d be hard pressed to love a sandwich better than the peasant bread grilled cheese from Beecher’s in Seattle with their Flagship in the starring role. But I’ve also discovered that a thick slice of Leipäjuusto (a slow-melt cheese like Saganaki), a few slices of crisped bacon and a generous schmier of ginger marmalade make for a dandy combination, and I would certainly not keep such a stellar combination from you, my friends. Kevin, a Canadian small-kitchen wizard, has published a veritable encyclopedia of grilled cheese sandwich variations on his blog Closet Cooking (a site everyone with cheese in his DNA ought to bookmark, stat), and there are all sorts of other blogs and sites, foodie and otherwise, loaded with such cheesy champions as can make your spirits sing and your capillaries tighten simultaneously. So go forth and chase the cheeses! I’ll be here waiting for you, with the ribbons of some good, fat, stretchy melted mozzarella hanging out of the corners of my loopy grin.

Foodie Tuesday: Nearly Great Eating

Just because I’ll eat practically anything doesn’t mean I don’t care what I eat. I would far rather wait a bit longer between meals than eat something not entirely thrilling just to fill myself. On the other hand, if it’s dinnertime and something I was fixing didn’t come out entirely the way I planned it, I’m loath to let it go to waste. So while the skillet potatoes I put together for a recent meal weren’t quite what I had thought I was going to have, I ate them without much complaint, and so did the others at the table. I made them from thinly sliced raw russet potatoes, the peel still intact, and thought to create something between a country-fried potato dish and Hasselback potatoes and yet different, layering these on top of a handful of sliced almonds, seasoning the potatoes on top with salt and mixed pepper (my home grinder blend of pink, white, green and black peppercorns and whole cloves) and drizzling the whole dish with a small splash of almond extract and a very large splash of melted browned butter. The verdict after baking: good concept, poor execution. I liked the flavors very much but the texture will be far better next time when I add a good dose of broth to the pan to soften the potatoes into submission.photoBetter luck next time, I say to myself, but hedge my bet for the current meal by choosing a trusty standby for another part of the dinner. For vegetables, the range that will please my spouse is very narrow, and though I’m not averse to making separate things that I alone will eat, on a day when I wasn’t fully satisfied that one part of the meal was exactly as I’d planned it so we’d both enjoy it to the highest degree, I opted to keep on the ultra-safe side by using only the most uncomplicated and uncontroversial ingredients. So I just steamed some nice carrots and celery and baby corn (not pickled), buttered them up, and Lo, it was very good.photoWhen it was all plated up it didn’t look like a recipe fail day at all. And it was all perfectly edible, if some in more appealing ways than others.photoThe last part of the meal to get prepared was fairly quick and simple, and despite being an untried variation on my standard approach to a stir-fry of beef it wasn’t so far afield that I didn’t trust its outcome. So while the pan was heating up, I sliced a lovely grass-fed skirt steak and whizzed up the frying sauce of fresh ginger root (about two tablespoons of small-diced root that I preserved in vodka in the fridge, with just a dash of the vodka to help it blend), Tamari, lime juice, a tiny bit of honey, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Spicy but not fiery, and full of fresh ginger flavor.photoQuickly searing the beef and adding the sauce at the last so as to keep it from scorching while it could still caramelize a bit, I gave a shout to my dinner partner in the other room, and we piled up our plates. The potatoes were fine, if not exactly stellar; the vegetables were predictably comforting in their apologetic simplicity after the potato near-miss, and the beef was tender and zingy with ginger’s welcome tingling heat. I’d say I’m working my way up in the culinary world, gradually at least.

Foodie Tuesday: You Eat What You Like, and I’ll Eat What I Like

Besides being a wise quote from my perennial hero, Yukon Cornelius, the title of today’s post is pretty great advice for eaters at all times, most particularly so during the holidays. If I’m going to go to the expense and effort to do anything special for a Special Occasion, it matters far more to me that I want to eat the results than that they meet anybody else’s standard for tradition, impressiveness, or perfection. You won’t find me dining on dainties of glorious extravagance and beauty on a holiday or birthday or any other notable date if I’m the designated cook, because spending exhausting and exacting hours in the scullery before the blessed event is not my idea of a great way to arrive at it rested and ready to enjoy its importance in my life with good cheer and an even temperament.

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Appetizer parfait: hash browns (I made these with Gouda and smoked paprika), sour cream, hot smoked wild Pacific salmon and capers. Or, in the alternative version I offered on the same day–another easy to prepare ahead topping for the hash browns–smoked sausage pieces simmered in Pinot Noir BBQ sauce. The sauce was a sticky reduction of equal amounts of red wine and homemade bone broth with brown sugar, tomato passata, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne to taste. Guests could assemble the tiny dishes with any combination they liked, and I didn’t have to wrestle with the hors-d’oeuvres at all on the day of the party.

So while I adore Dungeness crab, I will not likely be preparing one fresh and mucking about with the tedious chore of meticulously picking the meat out of the shell–if I can find fresh Dungeness already picked and packed in a neat little carton, it’ll be on the menu; otherwise, not. My fondness for elaborate baked goods will likely be fed by an outstanding bakery, not by my slavish efforts right before a party. I’ll happily dine on a perfectly frenched rack of lamb or a miraculously flaky and tender kulebiaka or bistilla, but only if someone else is going to all of the effort it takes to prepare it.

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Homemade macaroni and cheese can be just as easy to fix as pre-packaged. Here, I blended shredded Gouda, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses in about equal amounts and added melted butter, eggs, smoked paprika, powdered mustard, a little grated nutmeg, and a tiny dash of liquid smoke (no additives, please) before stirring the cooked pasta in with a bit of cream and baking it to melt and meld it all together.

That’s how, when Christmas dining is at home, it may go so far as to be a roast beef that can be cooked sous vide and requires only a quick browning in the oven before carving, but it might also be a made-ahead, very down-to-earth macaroni and cheese. Or even a tuna salad sandwich, a perpetual favorite that, while it’s hardly what anyone I know would consider Fancy, is gladly eaten with a handful of good potato chips and a juicy apple on nearly any occasion chez nous. I want to eat delicious food on Christmas, but it doesn’t have to be unusual or expensive or showy in any way to be delicious, and if its simplicity of preparation means that it’s eaten in a very comfortably relaxed state, that makes it all the more appealing and enhances its flavor remarkably.

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Homemade mac-&-cheese is, in fact, also easy to customize for any number of tastes and occasions, as when I change out the elbow macaroni with some fresh fettuccine and toss in a batch of Langostino tails. Voila! ‘Poor man’s’ lobster fettuccine.

I hope that everyone who is celebrating around now–whether it’s Christmas, the Dongzhi festival, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, the New Year, Kwanzaa, a birthday, or something entirely different–has the wealth and freedom to take the same approach. It’s satisfying to arrive at happy events relaxed and, well, happy. And eating what you love to eat is always better than eating what you think you should eat, only because you think you should. I wish you all great food, simply prepared, great company when you want it and quiet time away when you need it. That’ll make the food taste all the better when it comes. Cheers! Bon appetit! Joy!

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Who says plain salt-and-pepper roasted chicken isn’t fancy enough for a special occasion? If you enjoy it, indulge. Even with the most common of accompaniments, it can be satisfying and tasteful (clockwise from the ruby-colored jellied cranberry sauce at left): pickles (here, okra, green tomatoes and green beans); sweet corn; coleslaw; apple sauce (freshly made brandied maple sauce); mashed baked potatoes with beurre noisette, fried sage leaves and optional red wine/broth reduction sauce; and a spoonful of tiny, tasty green peas. And if you’re a vegetarian, you can always eat the whole rest of the meal and be content. Peas to all the earth, I say!

Even desserts–maybe especially desserts, come to think of it–can get treated like such elaborate Fabergé egg-like constructions that they are too precious for ordinary mortals to eat and far too tiring for me to slave over preparing. I’ve hardly ever seen anyone turn up his nose at store-bought ice cream or refuse if I offered her a nice piece of chocolate straight out of the wrapper. A bowl of perfect fresh strawberries, a moist pound cake made the other day, and a quick batch of whipped cream with vanilla give instant summer cachet to the end of a meal. Banana pudding needn’t even be a fuss, and doesn’t look really like much (hence the lack of a photo), but it’s unpretentious and tasty enough that everyone right down to the toddlers will happily eat that old comfort favorite.

Banana Pudding to Make You Go Ape

Don’t bother with cheap, phony tasting artificially flavored instant banana pudding, either, despite a short timeline for the treat (unless you get all nostalgic over it for some reason). All you actually need is some really ripe bananas and a handful of other ingredients, and away you go…

Blend together until smooth (I use the stick blender for this): 5 overripe bananas (too mushy for eating plain), a pinch of salt, the juice and grated rind of 1 large lemon, a generous teaspoon of vanilla, a couple of tablespoons each of raw honey and butter, and about a cup of heavy cream. Chill until thickened. What do you taste? Bananas. What will you do? Go bananas over it. Why work harder than that for your food and fun? Enjoy your holidays and happy days instead!

Oh, and I must add (since what goes without saying may not entirely go without saying for everybody!) that this kind of banana pudding will, of course, oxidize–unlike the aforementioned imitation stuff–so it’s best eaten right when you’ve made it unless you’re like me and don’t care if it’s a little beige in color. And it’s not super thick, so if you like it thicker, I recommend whipping the cream separately and then folding it into the blended banana mash, to which you’ve already added the other ingredients. No matter how you choose to make it, it’s still pretty tasty. And, as Marie has suggested in the comments and I’ve already tested, it makes a dandy breakfast!

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Happy New Year!

Foodie Tuesday: Un-, Ex-, De-, Out-

We are leaving one season and entering another. Time to divest ourselves of pretense and the impulse to be over-elaborate when making a change. I see people all around me worrying that their Thanksgiving menu isn’t finalized, their Fall-themed altar of mantel decor not as impressive as the next neighbor’s, and their Halloween costumes not thrilling and polished enough to accompany their hundred handmade sweets for the twenty-seven tiny Monsters who will come knocking. Better, sometimes, to enjoy simpler approaches and simpler pleasures! Autumn can be:

Uncomplicated.

Extricated from fussiness.

Demystified.

Outrageously edible.

photoAt the change of each season I do have a tendency to shift in my flavor preferences. When it’s been summer-hot out and finally becomes cool, those warming, earthy, old-fashioned and evocative spices and scents of Fall–cinnamon and cardamom, roasted roots and mushrooms, sweetly freckled pears and chalky-skinned, slightly scabby McIntosh apples (not the electronic kind, mind you) begin their annual siren songs of woodsy, sit-by-the-hearth allure. And I can go a little crazy.

[I can see you out there rolling your eyes at my gift for stating the obvious.]photo

It’s easy to go a bit wild, to be the over-swung pendulum flying to opposite extremes, when one has been long immured in the cooling pools of summer’s lovely seasonal foods and beginning to long for something different. But of course delicious flavors needn’t be exaggerated to be glorious. Sometimes the over-the-top approach is indeed precisely what I desire, since I’m a more-is-more kind of person in general, but sometimes a little subtlety is also a welcome thing. A restrained hand in the kitchen can allow a smaller assortment of lovely notes to interplay beautifully, and the pleasure of savoring one gorgeous individual taste at a time, too, can provide moments of sublime happiness that stretch well beyond the culinary.

I know this stuff perfectly well in my head, but my heart frequently scarpers off with my stomach quick as the dish with the proverbial spoon, and once again I have to calm myself and remember that there’s plenty of time in the season for me to slow down and savor the flavors before the next change arrives. It happened again last week, and I had a narrow escape from the annual autumnal overkill. I pressed aside my rabid plans for the sort of dangerously delirious feast that would’ve kept me comatose right up until the next fit of wildness did hit me at Thanksgiving. Fanning myself thoughtfully with a big spatula, I got busy making a much less complicated, sautéed and simmered, soup treat and found it as satisfying as could be.photo

Hearty Cauliflower & Mushroom Soup

Simmer 1 bunch of fresh sage leaves in 1/2 lb of pastured butter (I use salted–I’m very fond of my salt, thankyouverymuch) until the butter’s golden brown and fully infused with the herb and the leaves have given up their moisture. Strain out the leaves onto paper and let them crisp up nicely, giving them an additional sprinkle of salt if desired for crunch. Sauté 2 cups cauliflower florets and 1-1/2 cups sliced brown mushrooms (both can be fresh or frozen) in plenty of the sage butter until they’re soft and caramelized. Add a little liquid–water, dry sherry, broth, buttermilk or cream as you blend it all with a stick blender. No need to get it thin or even quite smooth: this is a rustic Fall soup, after all. Garnish it as you wish: a swirl of buttermilk or Crème fraîche, some crumbled crispy bacon, some deeply caramelized onions, or just a generous toss of those crisped sage leaves.

There’s only a little bit left to complete this recipe: take your bowl of prepared soup, curl yourself in the arms of a big, well-worn overstuffed chair, bundle up in that wonderful old afghan lap-rug your granny crocheted for you in your youth, crack open a musty classic book, and lap up your thick soup with a big, deep spoon. Sigh, turn page, sip, repeat. Winter’s just a few chapters away.photo

Foodie Tuesday: In Small Doses

Another lunch, another assortment of dishes. I’m not much on trying to unravel what magical single dish or small group of dishes will satisfy every person at the table when I’m serving them lunch, so as always, when I had a few friends over a few days ago, I opted for my usual ‘safe’ approach of a larger number of smaller dishes. As I so rarely use actual recipes, I do tend to make up a menu in the form of simple notes, lists of ingredients, combinations, that sort of thing. Here we go. Imaginary eating is sometimes half the fun!

For the occasion, a bunch of my friends became the LADIES WHO LUNCH.
*‘Virgitarian’ Green Punch
* 1 small honeydew, cubed
* 1 cup finely sliced celery
* 1/2 apple
*1 whole cucumber
* 1 cup water
* 1 bunch of fresh mint
* Juice of 1 small lemon, 1 lime
* 3 cups Stirrings Simple Mojito mix

photo    * Quinoa with browned butter and myzithra
   * Cornichons, Membrillo and fried shallots

photo    * Tomato Apricot Jam as ‘relish’
* 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
* 1/2 cup dried apricots
* 1/4 cup Cabernet
* 2-3 T Balsamic vinegar
* 2-3 T honey
photo    * Beef & Rice Stuffed Portobellos
* 2 large Portobello caps
* 1 cup broth-cooked rice
* 3/4 cup minced roasted beef
* 2 T cooked/thickened beef jus
* 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
* 1 T sweet-hot or Dijon mustard
* 2 T sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
* 1/4 cup finely grated Reggiano
*2 T (2 ‘butter pats’) sharp white cheddar
* (Optional: top with crumbled fried sage leaves)
photo    * Braised Kale in Tomato Sauce
* 1 bag (ca. 4-5 cups) of washed, cut kale
* 1/4 cup chopped celery
* 2 T butter
* couple of small pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
* 1-1/2 cups fire roasted tomatoes
* 1/2 cup orange or tangerine) juice
* Pinch of sugar
photo    * Mixed Potato Gratin
* 1 Russet and two sweet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
* EV olive oil
* Alder smoked salt
* Ground black pepper
* Sprigs of fresh rosemary
* 1 cup heavy cream
photo    * Marinated Green Beans & Radishes (serve hot or cold)
* 2 cups lightly steamed cut green beans
* 1 bunch of radishes, cleaned and sliced
*1/2 cup cider vinegar
*1/4 cup mild oil (I used canola)
* Sugar to taste
* 1 tsp ground mustard
*1 tsp dried dill
* 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Black sesame seeds for garnishphoto
 * Tangerine & Fresh Strawberry Frozen Mousse & TJ’s caramel-sea salt chocolate

Curtseying & Polishing My Tiara Madly

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Now, there's really no need for you to go putting up any monuments in my honor or installing any statues of me . . .

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. . . and while I love a good concert and the after-parties are outstanding, it's not necessary to write compositions in my honor and get the marching band ready for a parade . . .

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. . . and while I do love a good monetary recognition, it's hard to explain any sums sizable enough to be really impressive when our fine friends from the Internal Revenue Service start paying attention to the numbers . . .

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. . . so I think I'll just say that my heart is warmed immensely by the kind light you've shone on me, and that in return I hope that I can be a little brighter and a little more generous with my light to the rest of you, and that you will all pass it along as well . . .

Once again I have been receiving kind and generous notices of recognition over the last few weeks from my gracious blogging friends, and I’m overdue to say appropriate thanks in response. So here I am at last, with another lovely gift-basket filled with Genuine Blogger, Versatile Blogger, Sunshine, and Kreativ Blogger Awards and feeling overwhelmed as always at the munificence of the online community. These latest are conferred upon me, regardless of my deserts, by my fellow poets, artists, foodies, gardeners, essayists, music lovers, travelers and others with whom I’ve so fortuitously crossed paths out here in the ether and am enjoying the marvels of mutual entertainment and discovery.

It is with a humble and happy heart that I thank Meg, Susie, Mark, Mars, Kofegeek and Tamara. Some of these have been friendly correspondents of mine for a lovely while now, and others are quite new to me, and I highly recommend that you have a look at all of their blogs! Meg is a veteran traveler for her relatively few years’ opportunity, and always posts marvelous pictures and original thoughts and ideas about places visited and things done there. Susie writes with great good taste, artful illustration and photography, and shares stories and samples of fabulous food and outside-of-kitchen adventures, too. Mark, an outstanding graphic designer in the UK, sometime DJ and constant educated music listener, gardener and traveler, always has a wise and witty twist to his posts. Mars has lived a rather cosmopolitan life but keeps a grounded and sensitive point of view, traveling, writing moving and insightful observations about life’s vicissitudes, and seeking beauty and light in the world. Kofegeek brings ingenious humor and insightful discourse to matters of science and math, cats and coffee, and much more. Tamara is a marvelous gardener from Ljubljana who is working to create intergenerational conversation about that earthy art.

Meanwhile, I am required by the rubrics of these awards to do a little personal sharing with you, my readers, and to introduce to you other worthy bloggers, and so I am going to combine my efforts and ask that you have a good visit to some truly worthy sites elsewhere as well. Share the love!

First, 10 blogs and bloggers worthy of your attention:

Cynthia @ http://lesplaisirssimplesdelavie.wordpress.com/ (photos, thoughtfully captioned with brief yet expansive and often lyrical text)

Natasha @ http://comeduemaiali.wordpress.com/ (seriously, how can you not enjoy eating ‘like two pigs’? I know I do, oink oink) Important update announcement: I am clearly not as smart as even one little piggy, because I completely missed that Natasha had been one of my award benefactors in the first place. But I’ll pretend I Meant to Do That just so that I could pass on the other awards back in her direction! Because, and I am not making this up, she really deserves them anyway!

Becky @ http://beckyfrehse.wordpress.com/ (a longtime friend, Becky is a tremendously versatile mixed media expert, visual artist, collaborator, teacher and all-around cool person)

Lorelei @ http://incidentallearner.wordpress.com/ (rediscovering her incredible painting gifts, she’s a watercolorist and storyteller extraordinaire)

Bente @ http://bentehaarstad.wordpress.com/ (no, I’m not prejudiced just because she’s from my ancestors’ homeland, Norway–she’s a really fine photographer!)

Sue @ http://suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com/ (another distinctive and fine photographer, capturing other parts of the world, caught my eye)

Pat @ http://rantingchef.com/ (making all sorts of stellar and luscious foods sound and look fairly simple to make, and worth the effort even if not so easy)

Maggie @ http://thelittledesignstall.wordpress.com/ (a Pinterest-style blog full of gleefully over-the-top and often spectacularly inventive and gorgeous design images from all over)

Maenamor @ http://antiquityandadventures.wordpress.com/ (guiding us around scenic bits of England and Wales and sharing special local events with their fascinating stories)

Robi @ http://kabyahe.wordpress.com/author/robijiz/ (introducing cultural and natural beauties of the Philippines in outstanding journalistic and artistic photography)

Meanwhile, back to talking about myself, because I’m so incredibly exciting!

I think almost anything could be improved by the addition of browned butter (beurre noisette), possibly including a plain spoon about to be stuck in my mouth;

&   I have rather excellent printing (lettering) skills because my cursive handwriting, though perhaps interesting to look at, is almost indecipherable even to me;

&   If I don’t sleep at least nine hours a night I am not very likeable company;

&   Classical music is often my go-to choice, but there are others that have particular allure for me at different times or under varying circumstances, i.e., Blues music during physical labor, vintage ZZ Top, Oingo Boingo and Van Halen on road trips, reggae on a beachy sunny day, jazz and swing for hanging around people-watching in a cafe, and so forth;

&   The smell of coffee is heavenly to me, but I don’t drink it often and then only as flavoring for lots of cream and sugar;

&   Perhaps because of my temperate Northwest upbringing, I think of green as a perfect neutral color, just as much as the traditional black-white-grey-brown palette;

&   I’m not particularly girly (in the ruffles and bling and pink sort of pop-culture way) but I am fond of being female and even sometimes live up to sex stereotypes, if accidentally;

&   Not much of a crier (maybe I tend to try to be stoic when genuinely sad), except at the most silly sappy stuff, but I am an inveterate hugger and hand-holder;

&   I’m so old that I went to a school where there were no lockers, only a cloakroom; that the houses and cars in the neighborhood were all generally left unlocked; and that the older kids piled loosely in the backseat of the car while the baby sat in Mom’s lap up front;

&   I’m so young that I think Bucket Lists are for people thousands of years older than me because I have all the time in the world and naively believe that I will get around to anything that matters enough, eventually.

On that note, I really must finish this up for today and get it posted, because despite my limitless future I find that blogging is a time-consuming joy and can easily eclipse numerous other activities that may well turn out to be worth the doing if I don’t get too obsessed and distracted leaping around the meadows of the Internet in the grand company of my many admirable blogging playmates and mentors and companions.